PHANG NGA — Two pink dolphins were spotted for the first time in years at a national park on Tuesday, to the delight of wildlife officials.
Indian Ocean humpback dolphins had not been seen in Ao Phang Nga National Park since 2014. Officials thank a ban on plastic bags implemented in 2017 for their reappearance.
“It’s the second time this year we’ve sighted dolphins here, after not seeing any at all since 2014,” said Srayuth Tuntean, head of Ao Phang Nga National Park. “We suspect that [both times] the dolphins came to look for food, since the area has a lot of marine life and mangrove forests. It’s a direct consequence of the plastic bag ban.”
The two dolphins, of unknown sex, about were 150 centimeters long each. Ranger Pakorn Wongtanghin, who spotted the dolphins, said that the dolphins appeared healthy.
Sousa chinensis, known for their soft pink hue, are called loma lung noke [humpback dolphin] or loma see chompoo [pink dolphin] in Thai, and are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Ao Phang Nga National Park is known for its scenic lagoons, mangrove forests, and rock formations, including James Bond Island.
Earlier in June, park officials spotted a bottlenose dolphin playing near a pier.
Ao Phang Nga National Park was one of the first parks in the country to ban plastic bags, beginning to do so in April 2017. In June 2018, all national parks banned plastic bags and styrofoam, with tourism officials urging people to use tiffin carriers, or pinto, to carry food instead.
Closures of popular tourist areas have also seen the return of rare wildlife. The world-famous Maya Bay in Krabi, overrun with tourists, was closed in June 2018 after marine experts pleaded for measures to allow the local ecology to recover. Only six months later, officials spotted Blacktip reef sharks giving birth to pups.